Brussels is the capital and most-visited city in Belgium. Despite being fairly large, the City Center is fairly compact and relatively pleasant to walk. It has always been a great center for trade, and, even in the Middle Ages housed the Guild Houses which were the headquarters for the producers of goods throughout Europe.
Begin the walk at the Grand Place, one of the most beautiful and elegant squares in all of Europe. Besides the regal, Gothic Town Hall, the square is lined with many of the Guild Houses which made this city a commercial center. Check out Le Cornet, the Guiild house of boatmen at #6, Le Revard, the Haberdasher’s Guild house, at #7, Le Cygne, at #9, where the Butcher’s met, and Maison du Brasseurs, the Brewer’s Guild house at #10. These are just a few. The houses are all spectacularly decorated and gilded to the nines since there was always competition to prove that one group or another was the most prosperous. In mid-August, every other year, part of the square is carpeted with flowers which makes for an incredible scene.
From the square leave on Rue Charles Buls and travel southwest for several blocks to reach the unimposing statue of Manneken Pis, the symbol of the city. This small statue of a boy peeing is perhaps the epitome of the Belgian people’s irreverence. Turn left at the statue and proceed up Rue du Chene which changes names several times before reaching the Place du Grand-Sablon, a square which has numerous antique shops and restaurants. Be sure to visit the Notre-Dame-du-Sablon Church which dates to the 15th century and is an excellent example of the flambouyant Gothic style.
Next, cross the Rue de la Regence and arrive at the charming Place du Petit-Sablon which is very attractively landscaped with shrubs and grass, surrounded by a wrought fence bearing a large number of bronze statues, reminiscent of the Medieval guilds of Brussels. There are also several statues in this square, which is a particularly lovely place to sit in solitude for a time.
After investigating this interesting square, go back to Rue de la Regence, turn left and walk about 300 meters to the regal and stately Palais de Justice. From here walk back down Rue de la Regence to the large open space known as Place Royale. The equestrian statue in the square memorializes the leader of the First Crusade, Duke Godefroid de Bouillion. Continue straight then take the first right onto Place des Palais and view the magnificent Royal Palace. Walk straight across the large park in front of the palace, then turn left on Wetstraat which becomes Rue des Colonies, then turn right onto Rue de la Chancelerie to the Cathedral. From here take St Goedelestraat which then becomes Rue de la Montagne and finally brings you back to Grand Place.